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Title: MicroRNAs form triplexes with double stranded DNA at sequence-specific binding sites; a eukaryotic mechanism via which microRNAs could directly alter gene expression

MicroRNAs are important regulators of gene expression, acting primarily by binding to sequence-specific locations on already transcribed messenger RNAs (mRNA). Recent studies indicate that microRNAs may also play a role in up-regulating mRNA transcription levels, although a definitive mechanism has not been established. Double-helical DNA is capable of forming triple-helical structures through Hoogsteen and reverse Hoogsteen interactions in the major groove of the duplex, and we show physical evidence that microRNAs form triple-helical structures with duplex DNA, and identify microRNA sequences that favor triplex formation. We developed an algorithm (Trident) to search genome-wide for potential triplex-forming sites and show that several mammalian and non-mammalian genomes are enriched for strong microRNA triplex binding sites. We show that those genes containing sequences favoring microRNA triplex formation are markedly enriched (3.3 fold, p<2.2 x 10 -16) for genes whose expression is positively correlated with expression of microRNAs targeting triplex binding sequences. As a result, this work has thus revealed a new mechanism by which microRNAs can interact with gene promoter regions to modify gene transcription.
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  1. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN (United States)
  2. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  3. Univ. of Oxford, Oxford (United Kingdom)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
PLoS Computational Biology (Online)
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: PLoS Computational Biology (Online); Journal Volume: 12; Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 1553-7358
Public Library of Science
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; microRNAs; DNA structure; DNA; electrophoretic mobility shift assay; purines; gene expression; DNA methylation; RNA stem-loop structure
OSTI Identifier: